Michael Avenatti, the attorney who has come to the forefront of legal battles against Donald Trump, and has now joined the defense of immigrant families separated at the border, is weighing in on allegations of sexual abuse in facilities where these children are being held.
After news emerged Wednesday that one child being held in such a facility in Arizona had reported seeing another child, only 14, sexually abused by an adult employee, who has since been arrested, Avenatti issued a statement saying he had clients who might also be victims, and that he is further investigating the situation.
ABC15 is reporting that this particular case comes from a Southwest Key facility in Phoenix, the same location Melania Trump visited for a photo op in June. A 16-year-old child being detained in the facility reported seeing an employee, identified as Fernando Magaz Negrete, enter her room, kiss her 14-year-old roommate, and fondle the younger girl’s genitals. Security cameras confirm that Negrete entered the room multiple times throughout the night in question.
Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego has called for a full investigation into these facilities, noting that this is only one of the many cases of sexual abuse taking place when migrant kids are placed in detention centers.
“If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine.”
That’s how one expert described our government’s shelters for migrant children.
Reporters have now uncovered “dozens of incidents of unwanted groping and indecent exposure” at facilities where these vulnerable kids are held, including at multiple facilities in AZ. It’s completely unacceptable.
Today I’m demanding a full investigation.
In fact, it was a facility run by Southwest Key that a 6-year-old child was alleged last week to have not only been sexually abused but treated as complicit in her own abuse, and forced to sign documents promising to stay away from the perpetrator, according to AZ Central.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Michael Avenatti held Donald Trump responsible for putting into place policies that place children in harm’s way, apart from parental protection, and noted that he has clients who may have suffered abuse at the same facility.
Note that we have clients that may have been inappropriately contacted while at this facility. We are presently investigating. Mr. Trump ordered children stripped from their parents and then he allowed them to be placed in harms way. An absolute disgrace!https://t.co/9ZyP6H6Xj6
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) August 2, 2018
Southwest Key describes its facilities not as detention centers but shelters and boasts its work in reunifying separated families. The New York Times notes that, while these shelters have been lauded in the past for safely housing unaccompanied minors since the Trump administration’s policy of family separation took effect, their role has shifted. Government contracts have poured money into these facilities, which have added beds and applied for (and in many cases received) permission to hold more children than their licensed capacity.
While Southwest Key released a statement saying they do not support the family separation policy, continue to hold child detainees in their facilities.
The AZ Central report linked above notes that Southwest Key holds government contract in the amount of $458 million, and the New York Times story cited in the last paragraph documents Southwest Key CEO Dr. Juan Sanchez’s salary as greater than $770k.